Stop Theming My App

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Please select the options that most closely describe your use and thoughts about themes.

I just use the default theme that my distro ships with
3
4%
The different look and feel of applications in different distros is a factor in my choice of distro
4
6%
I would change distro if I didn't like the default theme
3
4%
I use alternative themes but only choose from those pre-installed in my distro
7
10%
I use alternative themes installed via software repositories provided by my distro
9
13%
I use alternative themes installed via third party repos, PPAs, or sourced from the internet
8
11%
I often modify themes myself to suit my tastes
9
13%
I've had problems with some applications UIs being broken with some themes
9
13%
I have no idea how to troubleshoot if a UI issue is a bug in the application or a bug in the theme in use
4
6%
The current theme ecosystem is a mess, it's about time it was simplified, with simple GUI tools provided to end users to modify aspects of a common theme
15
21%
 
Total votes: 71

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smurphos
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Stop Theming My App

Post by smurphos » Sat May 25, 2019 1:11 am

Morning,

I came across this website set up by a selection of developers who create applications using the GTK toolkit.

https://stopthemingmy.app/

Basically they argue that distros that are based primarily on the GTK toolkit (this includes all current Linux Mint editions, most of the xUbuntus etc etc) should ship with the official GTK theme and icon set (Adwaita) used in Vanilla Gnome 3 as the default theme out of the box. They design apps to look good in Adwaita, and they get annoyed with fielding bug reports about UI issues with their apps that are actually caused by alternative themes, particularly when those bug reports relate to a theme supplied as the default by a distro.

They rightly point out that issues should be reported to the developer of the theme, whether that's the distro development team or the theme developer themselves when is a third party theme added by the user. They also argue that there is a pressure on app developers not to introduce innovative UI features that look fine in Adwaita but are broken in alternative themes and require alternative themes to be updated by their developers to look good.

To their credit they do recognise that end-users probably don't want identikit UIs and suggest that GTK in future should provide an official theme API that both app and theme developers can work with, and may make it easier to provide GUI tools for end-users to more easily make simple modifications the the default theme.

I think that this is a good idea in principle as the current methods of developing and maintaining themes for GTK2/3 are ridiculously labour intensive, and it's technically challenging to provide end-users with GUI tools to make simple modifications to themes.

But I would be concerned that the scope of what can be modified could become very limited, particularly as Gnome/GTK devs are normally prone to minimising and simplifying end user facing options, and don't appear to have much regard for the fact that Gnome 3 isn't the only GTK3 based desktop environment.

So my feelings on this subject are mixed and I'm interested on people's thoughts on themes in general. Do most people just stick with the defaults provided by the distro? Is the default theme provided by the distro an important part of it's identify that influences your choice of distro. Ever had problems with alternative themes?
For custom Nemo actions, useful scripts for the Cinnamon desktop, and Cinnamox themes visit my Github pages.

gm10
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by gm10 » Sat May 25, 2019 3:49 am

I'd be interested in the user-view, too, but to quickly add a developer view:

I agree with all of their gripes, GTK is a mess to work with, even getting things to size correctly under the default theme can be challenging and once you add themes into the mix it becomes a nightmare.

If you ever wondered why I've got such super wide boxes for the refresh schedule in Update Manager's preferences, for example, that's because on a number of themes the numbers are simply invisible when those boxes are narrower, despite there being plenty of room. There are also examples where I'd have liked to use another icon but I couldn't because in certain popular themes/icon sets the better icon would simply be invisible so I had to go with a worse icon for compatibility. And then there's the super popular Arc theme family in some versions hiding the (x) button on certain windows, which means you're forced to add a Close button for no other reason than to accommodate that broken theme.

As those guys say on their site, it's ultimately on the theme developer but you still want your app to be usable in a wide array of circumstances so you're forced to test with a large number of common themes. Which you shouldn't have to.

However, the solution cannot be for distributions or users not to theme. I put the blame plainly on GTK. Their theming system is a mess. I'm not sure I'd ask them to add an API instead though, for their programming API is a major mess, too. GTK has outgrown GNOME, but they're still developing only for it basically. Frankly GTK should be burned down to the ground and re-created as a desktop-independent framework with a structure incorporating all the lessons learned since. :P

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smurphos
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by smurphos » Sat May 25, 2019 5:06 am

gm10 wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 3:49 am
And then there's the super popular Arc theme family in some versions hiding the (x) button on certain windows, which means you're forced to add a Close button for no other reason than to accommodate that broken theme.
I've fixed that one in NicoHoods fork

I don't think app developers should bother trying to accommodate broken themes - any UI bug report to an app developer or a theme developer should include the question and answer Can you reproduce the issue with Adwaita? If yes, then is likely a app issue (or possibly a DE issue), if no then it's almost definitely a theme issue.
For custom Nemo actions, useful scripts for the Cinnamon desktop, and Cinnamox themes visit my Github pages.

gm10
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by gm10 » Sat May 25, 2019 5:29 am

smurphos wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 5:06 am
I've fixed that one in NicoHoods fork
Yes, I know, thx, that's why I said "some versions". ;)

PS: For the benefit of everybody else: That fork is the Ubuntu/Mint version, but you won't get the update before LM20.

cliffcoggin
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by cliffcoggin » Sat May 25, 2019 9:11 am

smurphos wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 1:11 am

So my feelings on this subject are mixed and I'm interested on people's thoughts on themes in general. Do most people just stick with the defaults provided by the distro? Is the default theme provided by the distro an important part of it's identify that influences your choice of distro. Ever had problems with alternative themes?
Speaking as a neophyte to Linux despite using Mint for two years, (I don't know what GTK or API are,) I admit to rapidly giving up on alternative themes, mainly because of the frequent compromises to the legibility of icons, borders, controls etc. in themes that were visually acceptable. Consequently I just use the Mint X theme with high contrast controls and a more distinctive cursor arrow than standard.

Having said that, I also admit that appearance in the cosmetic sense is of lesser concern to me than most people. As long as I can read what is on screen I don't care much if one app looks different to another. I have no doubt that much tweaking could be done to achieve the ideal appearance if I delved into coding or alternative repositories but I have zero interest in doing so. If I can not readily achieve what I want from Settings I forget about it and accept what I have.
Cliff Coggin
Mint 18.3 Cinnamon

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thx-1138
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by thx-1138 » Sat May 25, 2019 10:45 am

...for obvious reasons, michaeljacksonpopcorn.jpg comes to mind...
https://github.com/do-not-theme/do-not- ... o/issues/3

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smurphos
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by smurphos » Sat May 25, 2019 11:34 am

thx-1138 wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 10:45 am
...for obvious reasons, michaeljacksonpopcorn.jpg comes to mind...
https://github.com/do-not-theme/do-not- ... o/issues/3
Thanks for linking - interesting and robust discussion, particularly the System 76 devs contribution, and BrainBlasted eventual confirmation that he only really cares that his apps work well in Vanilla Gnome 3 and everyone else can go jump. The Mint team ship their apps with both both mandatory and fallback css so that for example Nemo's custom style-classes will look OK with Adwaita or any other theme lacking those specific style classes.
For custom Nemo actions, useful scripts for the Cinnamon desktop, and Cinnamox themes visit my Github pages.

gm10
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by gm10 » Sat May 25, 2019 12:29 pm

So those GNOME guys that are part of the open letter want app-specific themes and consider it rude to theme somebody else's app? I hadn't quite understood that from the open letter itself. That's pretty funny stuff. And completely missing the point and ignoring reality, too.

Crippled

Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by Crippled » Tue May 28, 2019 10:22 pm

This is a great poll. If those developers would check their work instead of arguing there wouldn't be any problems.

swayne
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Re: Stop Theming My App

Post by swayne » Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:03 am

Intriquing from so many levels.

As a user, the problems with Themes is no doubt responsible for much of why Linux Desktop has had so many problems becoming widely adapted. Inconsistencies, broken apps and themes. It is a mess and needs someone to step up and resolve the issues.

As a developer I can see the complaints, especially when it comes to bugs caused by themes. That's a real problem and more evidence that this mess needs a real solution.

However, as a long time user and supporter of OSS, I find the petition a bit odd. The entire point of Open Source is that others can use and alter the code/theme/graphic to please themselves. Essentially this petition is saying that users of OSS are not allowed to do those things.

So I think the only real recourse is to fix GTK, or as someone else said, tear it down and build a better desktop API from the ground up.
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